Post-Scarcity

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Description

From the Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_scarcity

"Post scarcity or post-scarcity describes a hypothetical form of economy or society, often explored in science fiction, in which things such as goods, services and information are free, or practically free. This would be due to an abundance of fundamental resources (matter, energy and intelligence), in conjunction with sophisticated automated systems capable of converting raw materials into finished goods, allowing manufacturing to be as easy as duplicating software."

See the more extensive discussion in the Wikipedia article.


History

Paul D. Fernhout:

"I had assumed Murray Bookchin had coined the term post-scarcity with his book "Post-Scarcity Anarchism" book in 1971:

Bookchin's titular "post scarcity anarchism" is an economic system based on social ecology, libertarian municipalism, and an abundance of fundamental resources. Bookchin argues that post-industrial societies are also post-scarcity societies, and can thus imagine "the fulfillment of the social and cultural potentialities latent in a technology of abundance". The self-administration of society is now made possible by technological advancement and, when technology is used in an ecologically sensitive manner, the revolutionary potential of society will be much changed. Bookchin claims that the expanded production made possible by the technological advances of the twentieth century were in the pursuit of market profit and at the expense of the needs of humans and of ecological sustainability. The accumulation of capital can no longer be considered a prerequisite for liberation, and the notion that obstructions such as the state, social hierarchy and vanguard political parties are necessary in the struggle for freedom of the working classes can be dispelled as a myth."

But in Googling yesterday, I see I was mistaken in my assumption. The person who coined the term was apparently "Louis O. Kelso".

"The phrase post-scarcity economy was coined in the 1950s by economist Louis Kelso, but it could have been envisioned any time after the Industrial Revolution. The idea is that automation drives down the price of all goods to effectively zero, money becomes meaningless, and the entire population goes on perpetual vacation. ... For a robot to build more robots from sand and gravel, it must replicate all the arts of ore mining, metal smelting, and machining, to make just the metal parts. There will also be rubber and plastic parts, and probably silicon electronic parts. The "self-replicative robot" probably now occupies several acres, and is really a self-replicating robot factory, producing both robots and more robot factories. In order to accept cheaper less-organized raw materials, the unit of replication needs to be more complex. MNT [nanotechnoly] simplifies matters somewhat. Products are built out of carbon and other common elements, "machining" is done at a molecular level, and no smelting is needed. Putting all the pieces together into one desktop nanofactory becomes feasible. The raw materials are atoms (dirt, air, water), time, energy, and software. Sometimes, what we really want from a post-scarcity economy is self-sufficiency. Complete self-sufficiency means that you can trundle off into the woods, build a log cabin, catch your own food, make your own clothes, and perform your own medical services. A nanofactory will make all that much more practical." (http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/browse_thread/thread/816605f61867dd11/353ca8a13c184edb?show_docid=353ca8a13c184edb#)


Interview

Singularity Utopia (SU) of Singularity-2045.org interviewed by René K. Müller (RKM) of OccupyConcepts.org on October 10-18, 2012.


* How do you define RBE and how do you think it differs from Post-Scarcity?


RKM: Take a look at Resource-based Economy where I summarized some of the key issues, and also formulated the criticism.


SU: This is where I disagree strongly with RBE advocates, when they say we already have enough resources. They say scarcity is merely a distribution/greed issue. While I fully recognise the 1% make things a lot worse for the majority, compared to how things could be, I am sure, looking at all factors, that we cannot have Post-Scarcity merely by having better distribution; thus things will not be free with better distribution based on our current technology.


On the issue of how, it is a simple issue comparable to how you breathe. How do you breathe? You simply suck air into your lungs; you never worry about a scarcity of air because it is all around us, it is not scarce.


How would people gain access to free computers in a Post-Scarcity situation? It would be similar to breathing air. You would simply compute via the super-abundance of computers all around you. Intel have stated (via their resident futurist Brian David Johnson) that meaningful computation (the chip size) will approach zero size in 2020, which means you could potentially have cheap microscopic computers in clothes, cups, paint, anything.


Recently I read about the ability to print solar cells. Imagine how 3D printing will have developed 20 or 30 years from now, we will be able to print anything, for example imagine being able to print powerful computers, or imagine printers that can deconstruct printed objects. So if computer chips are zero size by 2020, what about 2030, or 2040? What will evolved AI be capable of 30 years from now?


Look at various aspects of technology then project them 30 years into the future and that is the how.


Today I looked at pay-as-you-go cell phones in the supermarket and the cheapest one was only 14 US$, which is cheaper than 10 years ago and the technology in it is incredibly sophisticated compared to 10 years ago. You can also buy a corded landline handset for only $3.45. In another ten years companies will possibly give cell phones away or perhaps they will cost $2; or perhaps we must wait 20 or 30 years before there is such a drop in price, but the sure thing is that by 2045 everything will be free.


* RKM: What is the difference between having sufficient for all and Post-scarcity? What is free? When is something free for you?


SU: The difference between "sufficient for all" and Post-Scarcity is that the "sufficient for all" idea would or could entail rationing, there would likely be strict management of scarce resources to entail the sufficiency. Sufficient for all would or could entail mere provision of basic needs such as food and shelter, whereas Post-Scarcity entails no management or rationing, there is no need to regulate scarce resources, there are no limits in a Post-Scarcity situation.


“Sufficient for all” is imprecise because it could apply to a very wide variety of situations depending on how you define sufficient. For example the amount of platinum per individual could easily have a differing level of sufficiency for each person. A sufficient amount of cake per person is a differing measurement for each person similar to a sufficient amount of computing power. I am sure many millionaires think they have insufficient funds, which is why they are so desperate to earn more money; whereas many poor people might opt for eternal retirement if they had only 1 million in currency.


I doubt you could ever have a situation where everything is free if the resources are scarce. If there is very effective management of scarcity to entail a "sufficient for all" scenario, you will nevertheless have prices despite the sufficiency. Something is free in the monetary sense when it has no price, and there will always be price in a scarcity situation because human greed, the fear of scarcity, cannot be completely eliminated during a scarcity situation. " (http://occupyconcepts.org/Blog/1350544800/Post_Scarcity_Management_of_Resources)


Discussion

Tim Boucher on Value Abundance

Tim Boucher proposes to use less negatively charge concepts:

"But language around it needs to be reconsidered so that it becomes positive instead of negative. Both “post” and “scarcity” are negative words, meaning essentially “after lack.” What happens then is certainly a fundamentally important issue. But we should simply think past the terms we need now to terms we’ll need later. How about something like “value abundance” instead of “post-scarcity”? Seems more direct and to the point. I also have been using the phrase “thank you economics” to refer to an abundant gift-giving society." (http://www.timboucher.com/journal/2007/10/30/after-post-scarcity-economics/)

Patrick Anderson on 'at cost' production

Patrick Anderson, from the point of view of User Ownership Theory:

Patrick Anderson suggests "At Cost" is more descriptive than "free" or "mostly free" because some costs can never be fully eliminated. Products are naturally "At Cost" when the consumer is a partial collective owner of the Physical Sources in direct proportion to the amount consumed. User Ownership is a volatile state that can be held in place by treating all payments above "At Cost" (what would usually be called profit) as an investment from the consumer that pays it. This means we (initial investors building a P2P business) shouldn't hold Consumer Price "At Cost" directly, but should instead allow consumers to pay as "much as the market will bear" while treating that difference as an investment in more Physical sources for that same consumer so this micro-economy stabilizes toward Post-scarcity (or "value abundance") since products would be indirectly driven toward "At Cost". --Ownut 17:18, 30 October 2007 (PDT)

More Information

Articles on:

Bibliography:

  1. The Post-Scarcity Economics/Culture of Abundance Reading List v2.2

See Also